A player who whipped up a storm of controversy so soon into his Ibrox career has exited five months prematurely after quietly nipping out of the back door, as Craig Fowler writes
Nathan Oduwa got the whole of Scottish football talking when, minutes into his debut after coming on as a substitute against Alloa, he attempted a rainbow flick over Wasps’ full back Colin Hamilton.
The controversy was much ado about nothing. There wouldn’t have been anything said about it afterwards had Hamilton not given the press the perfect back page headline by accusing the Tottenham loanee of ‘taking the p***’ before warning that defenders in the second tier wouldn’t stand for such bravado on the pitch - which was an odd thing for Hamilton to say seeing as he had ample opportunity to carry out such threats himself instead of waiting to air his grievances in the post-match presser.
In the end this one piece of play summarised Oduwa’s time with Rangers. It was short, it was good to watch, but ultimately it didn’t lead to anything. The winger was an exciting talent even on a team as aesthetically pleasing as the current Rangers outfit, but it says a lot that a 36-year-old Kenny Miller, either on the right himself or pushing striker Martyn Waghorn out to the wing due to his inclusion up front, was a more effective option for manager Mark Warburton.
That’s not to say Oduwa didn’t have his moments. This writer was forced into making several involuntary noises by his performance in Rangers’ 5-0 victory over Raith Rovers earlier in the season. His quick feet and bag of tricks bamboozled the opposing defence and he deservedly picked up the man of the match award at the game’s end.
At this point it seemed the perfect match. Oduwa, like any young player on loan, needed to play regular football and Rangers, with their thin squad, needed another option in attack. But instead of being a precursor to an unforgettable season where he would dazzle and rack up goals and assists, the Raith match was to be his apex in a Rangers shirt.
While never poor on the football, he often struggled to impose himself on games and was marginalised further against some of the tougher opponents. That was to be expected. He’s a 19-year-old winger. Inconsistency is going to be par for the course as he learns how to benefit the team even when he’s not getting any joy against the opposing full back.
What he needed was a situation where his quieter games could be tolerated and he would get to keep his place in the side. Instead, Rangers’ apparent canter towards the second tier title quickly turned into a three-way battle for promotion, and subdued performances were scrutinised further.
In fairness to Warburton he continued to show faith in the player, but the telling moment came when he was substituted off in the 2-1 defeat at Falkirk. While he may have crossed for the opening goal, Rangers’ display as a team improved when Miller came on in his place. The veteran’s spot above him in the pecking order was then cemented following the crucial win against Hibernian eight days later.
With Michael O’Halloran apparently on his way from St Johnstone, Oduwa’s chances were only going to be limited further and it was the right decision for his development to return to London and search for a new club.
Time will tell whether he can become the next Jay Rodriguez, Tim Krul or Kasper Schmeichel and go on to have a strong career in the English Premier League following a stint north of the border. Either way, hopefully his Scottish adventure hasn’t diminished his love of the odd rainbow flick.
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